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  • Lisa P

Dooney and Bourke: Small Tack Bag


Every thrifter has the story of the one item that got them hooked. I had always shopped for second hand items, it started when I was a teenager. I loved to go downtown, in the city, and pouring over bins of vintage clothing in independent shops that dotted eclectic neighbourhoods. Through my early twenties I put more of my budget towards travel than anything, and fashion became my 'souvenirs' from the countries I visited. I really got back into thrifting, heavily when I took some time off from working in order to complete my degree to change careers. I had a two year old and was pregnant with our second child. I would go to the thrift shop during naptime and let my daughter nap in the stroller while I cruised around the store. Thrifting relaxes me, and I come out of this time feeling refreshed. Now my children are 6 and 8. Time flies.



I was searching through my local Salvation Army and the corner of my eye caught the stitching. When you are thrifting your eyes and ears are always scanning. Your eyes scan 'generally' (colours, prints will jump out at you), 'specifically' (things like stitching, labels will catch your eye), and your ears are on alert for the sound of a new rack being rolled out from the back, for other people's conversations ..."do you think it's real?"... always scanning. So many senses at work. I like to run my hands along the items and stop when something jumps out at me, using mostly my senses.



I leaped towards the bag, I knew instantly that it was a Dooney and Bourke, or a good fake. since I had never owned a Dooney and Bourke I used my 'thrift skills' to identify some clear markers. It was real leather, smells right, feels right, the stitching was straight and careful (most fakes have uneven and wavy stitching), hardware looked legit high-quality (heavy), and clearly stamped with 'Dooney and Bourke' (fakes will often be overly large and lack detail). It was $9.99. Now, the Salvation Army gives out coupons when you donate, and they require you to spend a certain amount of money to get a certain amount back. You can use up to 3 coupons on a single purchase. So when I find something I intend to purchase there, I always look to see if I can bring myself up to $25 to be able to get $10 off. But I don't like to force it. The coupons don't expire, so if I don't see anything I love, I know I will next time.


I purchased the bag and brought it home. Keep your receipts! Most large thrift stores (Goodwill, Value Village, Salvation Army) will allow you to exchange an item, within a week, (on the spot) for another item. Now it's research time! When you bring your item home you need to do some research online, and make comparisons to your piece. Dooney and Bourke has a huge vintage following, so their bags are well documented online. I like to use other bloggers sites, Ebay, and Poshmark listings to find legitimate photos and descriptions of the same style and model to my item in question. It's perfect if you can find a site dedicated to authenticating the type of item you have. These sites are common. and will pop up when you search for brands, serial/style numbers, and descriptions. Great ones will show you photos of comparisons between real and fake pieces. Once you have done your research, you will literally be a mini expert on your piece, which is a huge part of the fun of thrifting!



Look for:

- stitching, as I said earlier, should be straight, even stitches, you should not see any glue dripping from seams, or seams coming apart that have clearly not been truly sewed but just glued (especially interior edges). Dooney and Bourke bags even have traditional colours such as the yellow stitching on the tan leather.

- hardware quality and notations: Dooney and Bourke vintage hardware will be stamped clearly with 'SOLID BRASS'. The hardware should be heavy, and not plastic or cheap feeling.

- leather products should feel like real leather, may show creasing from being in a closet, and should smell like leather (yes, I'm a person who smells things at the thrift. Boom. Said it.)

- you must be able to find a tag (see authentic red, white, and blue Dooney and Bourke made in U.S.A tag with numbers on reverse side)

- A high quality item will typically also have a serial number (see above).

Obviously all of this varies widely according to the multitude of brands and their signature signs of authenticity.


After I figured out that my bag was a Dooney and Bourke "Small Tack Bag" I proceeded to scour the internet, I found out the date that this bag was in production, the original retail price, and the current price on Ebay and Poshmark for bags in similar condition to mine (good vintage condition).



As you repeat this process for more and more brands and products you develop a skill for authenticating items at the thrift store while you are shopping. Maybe not absolutely accurately, but well enough that you develop instincts that you can trust to a certain degree for the brands and products you are familiar with, but you can extend the same knowledge, skills, and principles to other brands and products. This positions you to be able to work a store faster, not having to examine every product, but to allow things to 'call to you'.



I still have this Dooney and Bourke 'Small Tack Bag' and I wear it all the time. It looks brand new, but is a vintage bag from 1994, and originally retailed for approximately $165. When you shop for second hand goods, no matter what kind, I think you gain a better understanding of what makes a quality item and how these pieces stand up to the test of time and use.




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